In tune with time, Siddhartha for six long years indulged in super human struggle to practice all forms of severest austerity and self mortification. His golden skin dried up, his muscles shrinked, and his eyes sunk. He became a living skeleton and almost neared his death. The black stone emaciated statue in the cave of  Dungeshwari mountain stand testimony to Siddhartha’s extreme austerities till date.

During  the six years between his renunciation and enlightenment, the Bodhisatva first stayed a little shortwhile near Rajagaha, where he was taught by his two teachers separately and after that he spent much of his time in Mahakala cave in the Mahabodhi mountain, where he practiced extreme austerities such as: clenching his teeth while pressing his tongue against the roof of the mouth, holding his breath; fasting or taking minimal food; eating cow or human dung, or only wild fruits; wandering naked; standing or squatting continuously; sleeping on the mattress of spikes etc.

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After setting in motion the wheel of Dhamma in Sarnath, the Buddha returned to Gaya and taught the Dhamma to the eminent Kassapa brothers – Uruvela, Nadi, and Gaya – and their one thousand disciples. UruvelaKassapa, a matted-haired fire worshipper, was considered to be one of the foremost spiritual authorities at the time. Knowing the medicant’s mind, the Buddha skillfully performed a seies of super-normal feats such as reading UruvelaKassapa’s mind, splitting five hundred logs in an instant, remaining unharmed during a great flood, and taming a fierce naga.

Impressed with the Bddha’s words and deeds, the entire group of matted haired fire worshippers shaved their heads and joined the Buddha’s community asbhikkus. A few days later, the Buddha summoned thebhikkusto the plateau of Gayasisa Mountain, where he delivered his third teaching, the Fire Sermon:

Bhikkus, all things are on fire. What is on fire? The six sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind – are all on fire. The six sense objects – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and mental objects – are all on fire. The six consciousnesses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and thought are all on fire. The six contact between the sense organs and the sense objects are all on fire. All these sensual experiences are on fire, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. They are burning from the flames of craving, aversion, and ignorance. They are burning from the flames of birth, old age, sickness, and death, and from flames of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair.

Bhikkus, when the noble followers understand the truth, they grow disenchanted with six sense organs, six sense objects, six consciousness, six contacts, and six sensual experiences. When they grow disenchanted, craving fades away. With the fading of craving, they are liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge they are liberated. They understand : “Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived, what was to be done is done, there is no more of this to come..”

After training Kassapa brothers and their one thousand followers, the Buddha left Gaya never to return, having seen that the inhabitants there clung tightly to their rituals and religious rites, making it very difficult for them to understand his message.

Devadutta’s Episode In Brahmajoni Hill.

After creating a schism in the Sangha during the last years of the Buddha’s life, his cousin Devadutta brought his five-hundred followers to Gayasisa. Out of the compassion for the misguided monk, the Buddha sent Sariputta and Moggallana to Gayasisa to set them right. When Devadutta saw the chief disciples coming, he thought they are coming to join him. Devadutta joined his palms together and asked Sariputta to give a discourse to the monks, as he was tired after eating a large meal.

While Devadutta’s eyes grew heavy and he fell into a deep sleep, Sariputta gave a profound discourse on the four noble truths.  The group of bhikkus listed spellbound  by the elder’s words, and all of them, except for a few of Devadutta’s loyal followers, became sotapannas.

When the discouse was over, the group followed the two elders back to the true Master.opening his eyes, Devadutta suddenly realized what had happened. He instantly fell ill and blood gushed out of his mouth.

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Knowing that the end of his life was drawing closer, Mahakasspa set out for his favourite mountain resort, Kukkutapadagiri (Cock’s Foot Mountain). While moving up the rocky triple peaked mountain, Mahakassapa’s path was blocked by big boulders. The stern monk struck them with his staff and the rock opened up to let him pass. The bhikku then climbed up to the summit, found a nice cave for meditating, and entered into a deep trance. The rocks closed up and he was never to be seen again. Legends have it that when Mateyya, the next Buddha, appears in the world to reintroduce the Dhamma, he will never find this mountain, awaken Mahakassappa and take his robe. This site is located around two hours (43 Kms) from Bodhgaya.

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The man made caves of Barabar and Nagarjuni, around 42 km from Gaya, are wonderful examples of early cave architecture. In the twelfth year after his coronation, King asoka had a stupa built on top of Barabar Hill to commemorate the spot where the Buddha enjoyed meditating throughout the night. Asoka also ordered the Barabar caves to be cut out for the Ajivakas, a sect founded at the time of the Buddha by MakkhaliGosala. These offerings demonstrate Asoka’s tolerance and support of spiritual traditions other than Buddha’s.

Walking up the steps one comes across the large Karna cave on the left, followed up by Sudama Cave, Lomas Rishi Cave with its semi-circular doorway decorated with elegant carvings, and VishwaGhopri Cave. The interior walls of these caves have a remarkable glass-like polish, characteristic of Mauryan work.

The tiny NagarjunMusem, located at the foot of the hill, has few broken, Hindu and Buddhist statues, and a model of the area.
Nagarjuni Hill: Asoka’s grandson, King Dasarath commissioned the carving of the large BarabarGopikacave on Nagarjuni Hill, which is about 2 km leisurely walk from Barabar Hill.

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This rocky hill was once inhabited by the Bengali Buddhist saint, Silabhadra and his disciples. Several fabulous Hindu and Buddhist carvings one may see at the foot of the hill. The village’s fame goes by an impressive 8 foot tall black stone Buddha’s statue in the earth touching posture.

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